1629. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 16 May [1809]

1629. Robert Southey to John Rickman, 16 May [1809] ⁠* 

My dear Rickman

I had yesterday a visit from the Scotch Bookseller Ballantyne , who in consequence of something which I said in a letter to W Scott has formally proposed to me to undertake a Review of old Books – i.e of all except contemporary ones, – to come forth quarterly in crown number, the Editorship 100 £ a year, the writing ten guineas per sheet. [1]  I believe I have christened it by the heathen name of Rhadamanthus. [2] 

Such a volume would suit me better than any other lucre-of-gain work, inasmuch I should do exactly what pleased me, & having the power editorial in my own hands should be in no danger of mutilation, – xxxxx If it takes effect as I believe it will, can you create time to send some sound opinions into the world thro this medium? taking what text you will – There is Herodotus who wants to be read by you – save time by reading Littleburys translation [3]  which is a solid one, – & have the original to refer to every notable passage. There is Homer upon whom you would throw more light than all the Commentators; – if you will examine him in your point of view, I will anatomize Popes version [4]  – which I have long considered as the original sin of xxx our poetry. But above all, what I should most desire from you should be <is> something upon those political principles which are universal.

I shall go to Wm T. for some of his politics, – his oddities. To the Rose of Sharon for a Saga, & a Welsh bard, & when things are fairly arranged I will endeavour to persuade Lamb to put some money in his pocket by this easy way, for in no other manner can so much be got by authorship – unless a man had Scotts Goose, – who lays bigger eggs than ever. [5] 

This Chapter 12 is for Hereford as before. [6] 

I am xxxx writing in thunder lightning & in haste. – You will perceive that I have used Drake [7]  & Cavendish [8]  no better than the Capitaneus, & moreover that I have fallen foul of Ralegh, [9]  – whom – sorry & I am to say – one of my supplementary notes proves to be a liar.

Remember me to Mrs R

yrs very truly


May 16.


* Address: To/ John Rickman Esqr
Endorsement: RS./ 16 May 1809
MS: Huntington Library, RS 142. ALS; 4p.
Dating note: date from JR’s endorsement BACK

[1] For the letter to Scott, see Southey to Walter Scott, 11 March 1809, Letter 1597. BACK

[2] In Greek mythology Rhadamanthus was a wise king who was one of the judges of the dead. Southey’s plans for this periodical were never fulfilled. BACK

[3] Isaac Littlebury (d. 1710), The History of Herodotus: Translated from the Greek (1707). BACK

[4] Alexander Pope’s (1688–1744; DNB) translation of Homer’s Iliad (1715–1720) and Odyssey (1726). BACK

[5] Southey often comments on the large sales that Scott’s publications attracted. BACK

[6] Of the first volume of the History of Brazil (1810) to be sent to his uncle Herbert Hill. BACK

[7] Sir Francis Drake (1540–1596; DNB) is mentioned in Southey’s The History of Brazil, 3 vols (London, 1810–1819), I, pp. 355–356. BACK

[8] Thomas Cavendish (bap. 1560–1592; DNB), explorer, whose privateering activities on the coast of South America are described in The History of Brazil, I, pp. 359–364. BACK

[9] Sir Walter Ralegh (1554–1618; DNB), courtier, explorer, and author, who aspired to increase British wealth through his voyages to the New World, and create a colonial empire on the north coast of South America. The note Southey refers to is in The History of Brazil (London, 1810), I, pp. 652–653. BACK

People mentioned

Scott, Walter (1771–1832) (mentioned 2 times)
Ballantyne, John (1774–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Hill, Herbert (c. 1749–1828) (mentioned 1 time)
Burney, James (1750–1821) (mentioned 1 time)
Taylor, William (1765–1836) (mentioned 1 time)
Turner, Sharon (1768–1847) (mentioned 1 time)
Lamb, Charles (1775–1834) (mentioned 1 time)